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Nobel Peace Laureate urges Africans to 'rise up'

  • Story Highlights
  • Nobel Peace Laureate urges Africans to "rise up" and demand better leaders
  • Wangari Maathai has called for greater governance in African politics
  • Her book "The Challenge for Africa" is being released in the U.S. this week
  • Maathai: "For the majority of people change is not coming fast enough"
  • Next Article in World »
By Hilary Whiteman
CNN
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(CNN) -- The same problems that brought the global banking system to its knees are shackling Africa to a future of corruption and hunger, Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai told CNN.

Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai is urging Africans to rise up and to demand responsible leadership.

Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai is urging Africans to rise up and to demand responsible leadership.

"In any society, if there is no regulation, if there is no control, you will always get greedy and selfish people who are prepared to take the economy very far for their own selfish ends," she said.

The 69-year-old Kenyan was speaking on the phone ahead of the launch of her book, "The Challenge for Africa," in the U.S. this week.

"To me the whole continent, especially south of the Sahara, is facing the same challenges and the main challenge there, as I have said many times, is governance."

"People get leaders they deserve," she continued. "So if they are getting leaders in Africa that are not caring about us, it's because they let them."

"If we want a responsible leadership, the African people have to rise up and demand that kind of leadership from their leaders."

Wangari Maathai has a long history of pushing boundaries in Africa. Video Watch a preview of Revealed: Wangari Maathai »

In 1964, she became the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree and went on to establish the Green Belt Movement, a tree-planting scheme promoting both the empowerment of locals and environmental conservation.

In 2004, she was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize "for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace."

In 2009, she told CNN she is worried about the impact of the global economic downturn on Africa, combined with the consequences of global warming on a continent that's already suffering from drought, food shortages and a paucity of responsible leadership.

"We see time and time again that the ruling elite are the least concerned about the poor and not only use the poor to argue their case, but when the money is available they're not paying attention to the issues that would make a difference in the lives of the poor people."

She said the rumbles of discontent among the people of Kenya, her home country, were getting louder.

On December 12 last year as the country celebrated 45 years of independence from British rule, President Mwai Kibaki was heckled as he addressed the crowd.

"For the first time in our history, the president was shouted down as he was trying to address the people. People shouted 'food, food, food ... we are telling you we want food,'" Maathai recalled.

"That was completely unprecedented so you can see that people are unhappy, people are dissatisfied and are even willing to let their leaders know."

Fifteen years ago, Maathai would have been worried about the possible consequences of publicly criticizing the Kenyan leadership. In those days, former President Daniel arap Moi presided over an era of political repression.

After his retirement in 2002, Maathai was herself elected to parliament and served as a minister until 2007.

An election in December of the same year sparked violent clashes between supporters of the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki and the opposition leader Raila Odinga, both of whom claimed victory. They reached a power-sharing deal in April 2008 with Odinga taking the post of prime minister.

"It was a problem literally created by politicians because they wanted power," Maathai said of the recent turmoil in Kenya.

"They were able to incite the poor people, they were able to make them kill each other, and they were able to make them rise up against each other."

"But now that they manage to come together, negotiate power, to share power. What did they do? They created the largest cabinet we have ever seen; 44 ministries and 53 assistant ministers. And why was that? Because they were trying to please each other."

"At the same time people are starving, people are suffering, and they are not spending the money on the poor, they are spending the money on themselves," she said.

Maathai said the very fact that she was able to release a book criticizing Africa's political leadership demonstrates how much has been achieved in the past few decades. Video Watch the controversy over another book in Kenya »

"I'm able to write a book like that, and I'm not in jail yet and so we are making the changes, but unfortunately for the majority of the people change is not coming fast enough," she said.

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Watch Revealed: Wangari Maathai at the times below:

ALL TIMES GMT
Wednesday, April 15: 0830, 1730
Saturday, April 18: 0730, 1800
Sunday, April 19: 0430, 1730
Monday, April 20: 0300

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